You start out at the kids’ table and then at some point you get promoted to the grown-ups’ table.
One year you're sitting in the back seat while your parents drive to Grandma's house; the next, you're driving yourself so you can dip out after dessert to go meet up with friends.
Thanksgiving dinner is always at Grandma's house and she cooks everything. And then one year it moves to Auntie's house, with everybody bringing a dish, because Nana can't do it all anymore.
And did you ever notice that it’s always Grandma's house even though Grandpa lives there too?
One year you bring a date to Thanksgiving dinner. The next, you bring a spouse or a baby. And everybody says how much that baby looks like Aunt This One or Uncle That One, or just like Nana who passed away last year. Or was it the year before?
Then one year the dinner is at your house. And it's a lot of freaking work. You try to get one of your siblings or cousins to do it next year. (The ones who are even there and not spending this year at their in-laws.)
You try sweet-talking the Aunt who used to do it, but she declared last year that she was retired from it and she meant it. But you get her to agree to make the mac and cheese because although you have Nana's recipe it’s not the same.
One year, your junior in college (when did that happen?) can't make it home for Thanksgiving; or they can and they bring along two friends. You put them at the kids’ table. You don't call it that, but you're thinking it.
And suddenly cutting the turkey is an even bigger deal because it's the first year your Dad's not there to do it.
And then your youngest, who's been married for five years (wait, what?), calls to invite you to Thanksgiving Dinner at their house but can you please, please, please bring the cornbread because nobody makes it like you; and you're thinking nobody made it like your Mom, who looks just like the newest grand baby who's toddling now.
You think, it might be nice to have dinner at someone else's house for a change, but the kids live in another state and it’s a really long drive and it’s been a really long year and the C-word (Covid) and you say, "Can we skip it this year?"
And instead of resistance you hear a sigh of relief as they confess, “This is a lot of freaking work!” You smile and say, “Yes. Yes it is.”
But you promise to be there next year. You'll bring the cornbread and the mac and cheese. But you're gently told that Cousin Whoever makes it better. You harrumph but agree, “True, true.”
And you wonder how the family will deal with Thanksgiving being different this year. The same way they do every year.
Leighann Lord is a veteran stand-up comedian, author, and podcaster.